COMPUTER PLAY WITH YOUNG
Computers and babies? Today’s software
programs are being designed for babies as young as 9 months
old - this may not be as far-fetched as it seems. As computers
are becoming more common in homes, software programs offer
ways for even the youngest child to participate in this
new family activity. As fun and learning come when parents
and babies play together, these programs are often referred
to as “lapware” - intended to be used by children
with their parents. Programs include subject matter that
appeals to the young child's natural curiosity as well as
easy controls that allow the child to make changes on the
screen. Well-designed software responds to what the baby
normally does; random "banging" on the keyboard
or mouse "clicking" prompts a response. A parent's
role is critical in interacting with their child with this
new "toy". As with any engaging activity, there
doesn’t need to be a “goal” when playing.
Simply enjoying the computer responses together can be fun!
Although software programs are designed for
all children, babies with disabilities may find additional
benefits. For them, computer activities can simulate traditional
play sequences that are easier to control. For example,
a child who likes to watch block towers being built and
then knocked down, but is unable to experience this himself
due to physical limitations, can do it "all by himself"
with the press of a single key, mouse or switch.
With so many choices of what to select for
beginning computer play, this booklet offers suggestions
on what to look for in software as well as ideas to ensure
that young children have fun with computers. Making something
happen, then choosing when, where and what will happen are
adventures the young child experiences as s/he explores
this new, interactive environment. The following information
is designed to guide parents and the professionals who use
computers with children with disabilities, in ways that
will make computer play an engaging and interactive experience!